The Christian faith seeks understanding about things of the world and things of the hereafter. To seek answers about our world and our eternal journey is a duty and a privilege. The reason for this attitude is because dualities exist in the world that makes us question changing levels in our lives. Why do good people suffer and wicked people prosper? Can the Christian find any hope living in the world filled with suffering?
We can find some answers in the life of Jesus. The Christian finds answers from Jesus himself when he said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it." From this answer, we can clearly understand that Jesus did not promise a bed of roses to his believers. The cross has come to represent suffering and pain. However, since Jesus resurrected from the death, all believers must translate life's negatives into higher values leading to eternal life. Jesus promised that by taking up one's cross every day, it can lead to the salvation that endures.READ MORE
The choices we make produce either a positive or a negative result. No persons in their right mind allows negative results to dominate their actions unless they are sociopathic. When you experience pain and sadness due to your bad choices, you may reconsider adjusting the kind of choices you make. When you continue to make mistakes and suffer negatively as a result of your choices, you refuse to count the cost of what you are doing. At the end of the day, you may harm yourself and produce a habit that becomes part of your behavior as a human being.
What makes a man or woman to say, 'I carry my cross by myself'? When you hear this, it means that the person is taking responsibility for their actions, or they are suffering alone with no support. Human life is experienced differently, and every human being must understand the consequences of their decisions. Jesus says, "Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?" Jesus is advising us to weigh the cost of our decisions before we delve into the wrong venture. And he advises that before you go to war with an enemy, count the number of troops that can give you a win. In making the wrong move, you suffer greatly for making the wrong choices.READ MORE
The Christian life is fashioned after the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Although Jesus was God, he humbled himself and lived among us as a man. Although he was rich, he became poor for our sake. Instead of living in luxury as a King, he chose a simple life and lived with Mary, and Joseph the carpenter. His birth was in a manger. When he began his ministry at the age of 30, he did everything possible to change the ugly attitudes of people for only 3 years. This task of changing people's worldview was a difficult one.
He did miracles to satisfy his crowds and to demonstrate to them the power of God. He told many stories about everyday life to illustrate to the people that God loved a humble heart and frowned at a boastful one. He became a source of pain to those who did not want a change from their dangerous way of living.READ MORE
After spending years doing missionary work in South America, Africa and in Eastern Europe, Paul Washer published the book Narrow Gate Narrow Way (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018) detailing his experiences in these locations. Using Matthew 7: 13- 27 as a leading text, Washer reminds Christians to lay a solid foundation based on the teachings of Jesus as the Master. Without following the examples of the Master, some Christians live a vain Christian life because it is not based on the teachings of Jesus as found in scriptures. Also, Washer argues that the way of Jesus is the narrow gate and only a few strive to go by that road.
The book of Washer deals with other topics on how to walk in the narrow way, pursue real holiness and gain a fruitful profession of faith. The gospel of today from Luke 13: 22- 30 discusses these topics with the question of how many will be saved. As Jesus entered Jerusalem, someone confronted him with a question about how many will be saved. He replied , "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, 'Lord, open the door for us.' He will say to you in reply, 'I do not know where you are from.' " This reply by Jesus is scary and fearful about how some people will be treated at the end of time for their non-adherence to the principles he taught.READ MORE
James Davison Hunter's To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010) explores how the Christian faith influences the modern world. Do Christians living in this modern world positively influence the attitude of others in the world towards living a godly life? These questions may seem academic, but they are also pastorally inclined because the divisions within our relationships make them relevant for a general discussion.
Hunter's book is even more relevant when we consider the desire of conservative Christians in America that there is need for a revival due to low pew numbers. By returning to the old-fashioned practice of religion, families refrain from imbibing neo-liberal ideas that portray Christian values in a different light. The irony of this thinking is that it is too late to return to the old-fashioned religion. However, adherence to the values of the Christian faith is necessary toward witnessing to the name of Jesus in public and private life.READ MORE
Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka's On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century (Image Books, 2013) is a dialogic exchange between then-Cardinal Bergoglio and Argentinian Rabbi Skorka. In this book, both Bergoglio and Skorka express their opinions on different topics affecting Jews and Christians such as God, religion, fundamentalism, politics, the holocaust, and the relationship between Jews and Christians in the story of salvation.
In the 21st century, the dialogue about heaven and earth is still also relevant because the hope of every Christian is to share eternal life with God in heaven. The personal dialogues of now-Pope Francis and the Jewish Rabbi give us an understanding of what Jews and Catholics believe in. Although the fundamental basics could be expressed differently, the core belief systems point to an understanding of a life after this life. A common heritage between Jews and Christian is the bible, a sacred book that contains Jewish historical lifestyle and the story of the messiah. Both respect the Word of God as revealed through the ancient prophets and the work of inspired writers. The pointers in the bible offer us undeniable openings to the realization that earth is temporal while heaven is permanent and eternal.READ MORE
This week witnessed more disturbing events around the world. All of them are pitiful. The shootings in Gilroy in California that killed 6 including a child, the shootings also in Chippewa, Wisconsin that killed six, and other bizarre events.
A few years ago, there was a shooting in a church in France that ended in the murder of 84-year old Fr. Jacques Hamel in the suburb of Rouen in northern France. Fr. Hamel was celebrating morning Mass when his two attackers rushed on the altar in a most indescribable way and martyred him. The Church is the last unusual place anyone would expect an attack of this kind. But don't be deceived, the world in which we live in is capable of surprises. There are ready elements waiting to visit mayhem on their targets, and the Church is the least you would expect. This is truly unfortunate for the 21 st century.
Such bizarre actions to the most vulnerable and harmless within the confines of their comfort zones are the most despicable under the sun. Today's readings illustrate to us the vanity of life by reminding us that life has a finality. All the toils and labors of daily life have an end.READ MORE